COVID-19 vaccines for children and teens: What we do — and don’t — know

illustration of a syringe on a blue circle with stylized coronavirus molecules as the background

Editor’s notice:

On August 23, 2021, the FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for individuals ages 16 and older. Youngsters ages 12 to fifteen can proceed to obtain this vaccine underneath emergency use authorization as extra information is collected.

Vaccines have been heralded as a key measure to gradual the COVID-19 pandemic and sooner or later deliver it to an finish. Day-after-day, hundreds of thousands of American adults are receiving one of many approved vaccines confirmed extremely efficient at stopping extreme sickness which may in any other case result in hospitalizations and deaths. Within the US, most individuals over 65 have now been totally vaccinated, defending probably the most susceptible in our inhabitants.

As an infectious illness specialist, my responses to the questions beneath are based mostly on what we all know to date about an infection and vaccines in kids and teenagers. We’ll have to proceed filling in gaps as analysis is completed and our understanding evolves.

What will we learn about how COVID-19 impacts kids and teenagers?

Most COVID-19 infections in kids are gentle or trigger no apparent signs. Nonetheless, a small share of contaminated kids

  • develop a severe inflammatory situation referred to as MIS-C within the two to 6 weeks following COVID-19 an infection. This will likely occur even in kids who’ve gentle signs or no signs.
  • get very sick and want hospitalization or intensive care.

Over 400 kids have died from COVID-19 an infection. That’s larger than the variety of childhood deaths throughout the deadliest flu season previously 20 years.

Vaccinating kids to stop these outcomes is without doubt one of the most necessary causes driving vaccine research in kids. Additional, vaccinating kids will likely be essential to reaching a population-wide stage of immunity — herd immunity — enough to gradual the emergence of harmful variants and convey an finish to the pandemic.

What do we all know to date about COVID-19 vaccines in teenagers?

  • The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is allowed to be used in kids and teenagers ages 12 and older.
  • The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are approved to be used in individuals ages 18 and older.
  • These authorizations have been based mostly on information from contributors of those ages in randomized, placebo-controlled trials that demonstrated the security and efficacy of those vaccines. Efficacy measures how properly a vaccine works within the managed circumstances of a research. Effectiveness is how properly a vaccine works exterior of a research, when individuals in the neighborhood obtain it.

As states develop eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines, kids and teenagers 12 and older can obtain the suitable vaccine by the identical sources adults have had entry to to date. Obtainable vaccine websites could fluctuate by state and the place you obtain well being care. Examine the searchable map on VaccineFinder, or your state board of well being.

Vaccine analysis finished to date, or now underway, contains the next:

  • Pfizer/BioNTech has accomplished a trial in 12- to 15-year-olds. This trial used the identical dose and schedule of the vaccine as is utilized in adults: two doses given three weeks aside. The vaccine was secure and properly tolerated, elicited sturdy antibody responses, and had 100% efficacy in stopping gentle to extreme an infection on this age group. The FDA has approved this vaccine to be used on this age group after reviewing the research outcomes. Each the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics advocate vaccination for kids 12 and older.
  • Moderna accomplished enrolling 12-to 17-year-olds in the same trial utilizing the identical dose and schedule as in adults: two doses given 4 weeks aside. Information from this trial are anticipated inside the subsequent few months.
  • Johnson & Johnson has began a trial of its vaccine for a small variety of 16-to 17-year-olds. If the vaccine proves to be secure and efficient in that age group, the trial will proceed with 12-to 15-year-olds.

What about COVID-19 vaccine trials for youthful kids?

  • Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have each begun trials in kids 6 months to 11 years previous.
  • These trials will every start by testing smaller doses than these given to older kids, teenagers, and adults. This permits researchers to find out which dose is properly tolerated and nonetheless elicits sturdy antibody ends in youthful kids.
  • As soon as the dose is about, bigger numbers of kids in these age ranges will likely be enrolled in placebo-controlled trials to guage the efficacy of those vaccines.

All of those steps will take a while in order that they are often finished with out chopping any corners on security. The earliest vaccines will seemingly be obtainable for youthful kids is late 2021, or maybe early in 2022.

What shouldn’t be but recognized about COVID-19 vaccines in kids and teenagers

  • How lengthy vaccine-induced immunity in opposition to COVID-19 an infection lasts in kids will should be adopted over time. Findings from such research will assist specialists determine whether or not kids will want boosters of COVID-19 vaccines sooner or later.
  • Researchers might want to consider the impression of those vaccines on defending kids from an infection with COVID-19 variants. However biologically, there can be no motive to anticipate variations in vaccine protection of variants in adults versus kids.

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